Every few Thursdays, DJ Kno Kname posts a throwback review of a classic hip hop album or an album by a classic hip hop artist released on that particular date. The review is divided into four parts, each analyzed under the lens of the four pillars of hip hop: MCing, DJing, breaking, and graffiti-ing. The MCs section analyzes the lyrical content of the album and suggests songs which up-and-coming rappers might want to listen carefully to. The DJs section is further divided into two parts: an analysis for DJs like DJ Premier, who produce songs, and an analysis for DJs like Rob Swift, turntablists who mix, beat match, and beat juggle. For the DJ Quiks out there, that’s what the MC section is for. The b-boys section suggests song which could be good for breaking/battling to, and the graf artists section analyzes the album artwork – is there anything worth integrating into pieces?
Kingdom Come – Jay-Z
Released on this date in: 2006
Context: Probably the only not-so-throwback album that will be reviewed, but with serious hip hop culture significance, Kingdom Come is Jay-Z’s un-retirement album, released three years after the supposed retirement Black Album. Grantland has a pretty good article contextualizing Jay-Z coming out of retirement in general (http://www.grantland.com/blog/hollywood-prospectus/post/_/id/92570/10-years-later-what-if-jay-z-had-stayed-retired-after-releasing-the-black-album); defer to the professionals whenever possible, right? What can be said specifically about this album with regards to a comeback album is this – there is little doubt about the mixed feelings about a comeback album, especially for a legendary artist after a strong retirement album like The Black Album. You never really wanted them to officially retire in the first place, but you know that any sort of return will be extremely scrutinized. Can’t live with the artist retiring, but you don’t really want to see them come out of retirement. Alas.
MCs: Very little needs to be said about Jay-Z as an MC. Notorious for never writing down his flow, never jotting down lyrics, you know you’ll get some crazy extemporaneous rhymes but also some predictable combinations. Besides, with 8 solo albums (one of which was a double album) and 2 collaboration albums with R. Kelly, some content is going to be used up. Which means all the interesting lines are from songs which are different from his typical library. “Minority Report”, which talks about Hurricane Katrina and samples some audio from news reports and interviews, is deep and thoughtful with some good rhymes (“But life is a chain, cause and effected/N****s off the chain, because they affected/It’s a dirty game, it’s whatever is effective”). If we’re talking about typical battle rapping, look no further than “Kingdom Come”, “Dig a Hole”, and “Trouble”. “Kingdom Come” takes its name from a DC comic book mini-series, so you get some juicy superhero analogies (“Take off the blazer, loosen up the tie/Step into the booth, Superman is alive” – does he mean the phone booth or the recording booth?) , though the hook leaves a lot to be desired (“So after this flow you might owe me a favor” – ugh). “Dig a Hole” and “Trouble” call out Jay-Z’s critics, so of course some ferocious lines (“How n****s dissin’ me, I made it possible/for n****s to make history, how is this possible/Please explain this s*** to me, how is this logical/Have we forgotten our history? Let’s open our Bibles” from “Dig a Hole”).
DJs: A lot of the usual suspects when it comes to production – Just Blaze, Dr. Dre, the Neptunes, Kanye, and Swizz Beats. Just Blaze samples Rick James’ “Super Freak” very well on “Kingdom Come” and Dr. Dre’s “Lost One” has the classic Dre piano stabs that every producer should know how to incorporate into songs.
For the beat mixing club DJs, there’s nothing too challenging to overcome and nothing particularly interesting to sample, except maybe for the audio clips on “Minority Report”. It might be advisable to avoid “Beach Chair”, which is slow and atmospheric.
B-boys: It all comes down to how you like to break with this album. Aggressive, battling, in your face power moves and holding your crotch at your opponents in your freezes? Look no further than “Oh My God”. Energetic and explosive in a circle with no enemy? “Show Me What You Got”. Always trying to be the center of attention when you break? “Hollywood” would be the song and B-boy name of choice.
Graf artists: A ’00 album, you’re looking at uninteresting album artwork; just high def pictures of Jay. The only saving grace is the cover, which has a little 3-D action going on. If you wear red-tinted glasses, you get one image, and green-tinted glasses gets you another. Nothing else to see here, though, move along.
Singles: “Show Me What You Got”, “Lost One”, “30 Something”, “Hollywood”
Shoulda been singles: “Oh My God”, “Kingdom Come”,